(Edit: sorry :( I wrote an essay)
I lost 65 pounds in the last 12 months, since Feb '12, and a lot more overall. If anyone wants some tips, I can help out (I hang out in www.chatcon.org, see if you can catch me when I'm not afk).
Weight loss is 90% food, 10% exercise. *1*
Counting calories is awesome. *2* and *3*
Exercise helps, try cardio *4*
Attitude is important, remember that this is a lifestyle change *5*
Choose more small goals over one end goal *6*
Smart diets are also helpful *7*
*1* 1 pound of fat is *roughly* equivalent to 3500 calories. If you cut your caloric intake by 500 calories a day, that means you can lose about a pound a week with no additional effort. But if you want to exercise it off, say by running, it takes a lot longer. Running/jogging burns *roughly* 150 calories a mile, so you would have to jog 23 miles to lose a pound. If you have a nice easy pace of 4.0 MPH, you'll be running for almost 6 hours to lose the same pound of fat.
*2* Use a journal or log to enter the calories for all of the food you eat throughout the day, every day. I started out with a draft email to myself, went to the LoseIt! website/app (which is good for more basic or speed use), and now I'm using the MyFitnessPal website/app (which has more in-depth information for advanced users). You just record the calories of everything you eat. After a few days/weeks of that, you can start cutting things out that you don't need. You'll see that one cookie was 75 calories but the other was 275 so you can probably replace the second with the first. You'll see that you had 1000+ calories in soda one day and you could cut it down a bit if you replaced it with something else. Blah blah blah, it puts everything out there for you to see and makes it super easy to modify what you eat. Then, after you get that down, you can give yourself a calorie limit and try to stay below it.
*3* Calorie limits get their own paragraph. Guys are usually 1500 for weight loss, gals are usually 1200. Don't go below 1000 for either person, that's the unhealthy territory. If you're bigger or more active, you may need 2000/1500 daily. There are BMR calculators out there that calculate your activity level, weight, height, age, sex, and give you a calorie number for weight loss. One of the coolest parts of calorie counting? You can eat whatever you want! You can have cookies, burgers, ice cream, anything and everything. You could even eat pure lard. But it all has an effect on your calorie limit and you'll quickly start kicking yourself when you go over because you splurged on lunch when you know you shouldn't have. This may sound annoying, but it trains you to eat better and exercise portion control and you can still eat the crap you want.
*4* Exercise is kind of secondary for weight loss but it's important for being healthy. Everyone seems to have their own thing that they do and that's fine. Any physical activity is better than nothing. Some things cost money (gym, equipment, programs) but don't let that scare you off - plenty of things can be done for free (walking outside, bodyweight exercises, youtube yoga). Doctors recommend any activity that gets your heart rate consistently elevated for at least 20 minutes a day so cardio is where to go for that. This also has the added benefit of giving you more wiggle room with your daily calories. Burning 200 calories on the treadmill means you can eat 200 more calories (dessert!) and still be at your calorie limit for losing a pound a week.
*5* Attitude is pretty important. You're not going on a diet and you're not exercising until you're healthy. Those are temporary. You're doing something permanent. You can't eat leaves for 6 months and then go back to pizza and taco bell 4 times a day. This will be a paradigm shift. A lifestyle change. You're changing your habits for the better and you're going to learn to keep them like that. Motivation also helps, but that's up to you. People find a ton of different things to motivate them. Maybe you want to look better, look hot, hug someone where your hands touch behind them, go up stairs in one go. Maybe you want your gentleman's sausage to look bigger when nekkid. Maybe you want your blood pressure, cholesterol, or other blood work in a safe range. Maybe you just don't want to die when you're 40 or 50. Whatever it is, figure our motivation out and keep that in mind, along with your goal.
*6* Keeping realistic goals is helpful. I know everyone seems to have a 50 pound goal, and that's good, but you may want to think about it a bit more. 50 pounds seems like a lot and far off, but you can trick yourself by giving yourself smaller goals. Say 10 pounds, and once you get there, your next goal is 10 more pounds. You'll get the amazing feeling of more victories and you'll still be on track for your final goal. Personally, I have a tendency to turn off once I succeed, so I would modify my goal whenever I was within 2 pounds of it so I never hit the goal and never feel like stopping, but I would still see myself pass the number on the scale so I could feel good about it.
*7* Last thing, helpful diets. So I know I said this isn't a diet, and it isn't, but your diet is important (dieting is a thing you do that supposedly loses weight, your diet is simply what you eat). It's easier to keep your calories low when you have a certain diet. The best way seems to be eating a lot of natural stuff like fruits and veggies and lean meat or fish because processed stuff or pre-made food tends to have a lot of sugar and fat and other crap that makes it taste good even though it's been in a fridge/freezer for weeks or months. Cook for yourself more often! There are a metric f-ton of recipe resources out there, things that are simple and fast and easy and won't give you the cheesy gordita crunch ... stomach problems. Plus you will save sooooooooo much money not eating out all the time. Hundreds or thousands of dollars a year. Think of the gaming rig you could buy with just that savings :o Also, don't do some stupid diet like the cookie diet, juicing, starving, or anything else like that. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
And remember, no matter how slow you go, you're still lapping everyone on the couch.
Edited by Bulreporting on 2/27/2013 9:52 AM PST